Restorative Yoga Practice for Deeper Relaxation
While all yoga poses (asanas) are meant for healthful and healing purposes, there are a few that are designed to give us the opportunity to linger quietly for a little longer, allowing us to savor the quietness and peacefulness of the moment. These poses fall under the category of restorative yoga practice. Ideally, every pose would feel restorative, however those that fall into the category of restorative yoga have the unique ability of leaving us especially well rested and relaxed.
When doing restorative yoga practice, props like blankets or blocks are used to support the pose so it can be held for several minutes at a time. This type of practice can seem overwhelming and intimidating for beginners who have never used props in practice before. Fear not, fellow yogis, a few guiding tips can help you begin a restorative yoga practice on your own.
Start with a few moments of gentle movement prior to beginning a restorative yoga practice. Gently stretch the muscles to warm them and create space in the body to prepare for relaxation. Gentle movement also gives the mind and body a chance to de-clutter and decompress, clearing all the stresses and challenges of the day before relaxing into a place of stillness and quiet. It takes a little practice at first, but don’t give up. (Our minds are so jam-packed with endless “to do” lists because we’ve become a society obsessed with scheduling to the point that we over-schedule and then can’t even think straight!) Remember, restorative yoga practices give us the chance to de-stress, so it’s worth the extra effort to become familiar with the poses and props.
Speaking of props, don’t skimp on them: blocks, straps, blankets, balls, towels, chairs, walls, sandbags, eye bags, and pillows are all used to help support yourself in these poses. The more fully your body is supported, the deeper your sense of relaxation and surrender will be. And don’t worry about breaking the bank. Many, if not all of the props used in restorative yoga practice can be found right in your own home, garage or linen closet! (Not to mention it gives you an excuse to clean out the badly cluttered drawers, closets and cupboards that you’ve been “meaning to get to” but just can’t seem to find the time for because you’re so overscheduled!) Your body will thank you for it, plus the sense of peace and calm that flows from simplifying and “paring down” will make you feel more calm and in control. So it’s a win-win!
Get comfortable on your props and make any necessary adjustments before you settle in. In restorative yoga practice, the distance between exhilarating and excruciating can depend on half an inch. Be creative and use your inner wisdom to guide you toward greater comfort, making any modifications you need.
It is important to balance restorative yoga poses with your regular yoga practice. Don’t try to do everything at once or you’ll get discouraged. Remember to check with your physician before beginning any yoga practice, and make certain that you receive guidance from a certified yoga instructor. There are also many books on the subject of restorative yoga practice. Judith Lasater’s Relax and Renew: Restful Yoga for Stressful Times is a wonderful read for beginners interested in restorative yoga practice.
At first, it may seem like you can’t hold a pose for longer than a few seconds. Be gentle and patient with yourself. In time and with consistent practice, you will be rewarded with the ability to drop with ease into a place of deep contentment. After all, that is the true purpose of yoga: stilling our overworked, overscheduled bodies and calming our wandering minds so that we may rest quietly in the present moment and see clearly the peace that resides within: Namaste. Peace, love and light.